Livi continued their storming start to 2020 as they saw off Motherwell at the Tony Macaroni Arena by a 1-0 scoreline that scarcely did justice to the Lions’ dominant display.
Aaron Taylor-Sinclair’s second goal in as many games was enough to seal a fifth-straight win for Gary Holt’s men with only a sensational performance from ‘Well keeper Mark Gillespie preventing a more resounding victory. The visitors almost walked away with an unlikely point but their only shot on goal all day cannoned back off the post in added time.
The Lions made just one change from the 4-2 win at Hamilton the previous week as Scott Robinson came in for Aymen Souda, who dropped to the bench, and they made a lively start, Lyndon Dykes testing Gillespie from the edge of the box on six minutes with a low effort that the keeper could only parry before Declan Gallagher cleared for a corner. Gillespie then made the first of a number of stunning saves seven minutes later as Ciaron Brown’s deep cross was headed back across goal by Jon Guthrie for Dykes whose hooked effort looked netbound until Gillespie thrust out his right hand to tip it wide.
The pattern of the match was set now as Livi swarmed forward at every opportunity and they went close again on 14 minutes when Craig Sibbald did well to nick possession from Liam Donnelly in midfield before driving forward and sliding in Scott Pittman but Gillespie was out smartly to deny Pittman with his feet. He then had to be alert to keep out Jack McMillan’s cross nine minutes later as Pittman looked set to pounce.
Gillespie was having the game of his life, although his next save on 33 minutes was a little bit ‘for the cameras’ as he leapt to his right to gather Pittman’s effort from 30 yards. There was nothing showy about his next one moments later, though, as Taylor-Sinclair did well to get to the byline on the left before picking out Robinson with a fine cross but his volley from close range was superbly turned away by the Steelmen’s stopper, who was more than living up to his team’s nickname.
The Lions should have hit the front on 35 minutes, though, as Sibbald’s corner found Guthrie unmarked but his volley flew high over the bar from six yards. Another Sibbald corner two minutes before the interval almost gave Brown his first Livi goal but his header drifted a yard or so wide as the sides went in at the break still somehow on level terms.
Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Motherwell
Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson was, unsurprisingly, less than impressed with his side’s first half performance and made two changes at the break, sending on Bevis Mugabi and Christy Manzinga for Jermaine Hylton and Christian Ilić.The changes had little effect, though, as Livi picked up where they left off and were quickly on the attack again, Robinson doing well to get to the byline on 51 minutes before winning a corner that the visitors were eventually able to clear.
Marvin Bartley then picked up n inexplicable yellow card four minutes later after a near-perfect tackle on Donnelly in midfield. Dykes followed him into the book for his vehement protests to the assistant referee. There was further frustration for the Lions two minutes later as Liam Polworth went down with Dykes just about nearby and was awarded a free kick by John Beaton, who then decided to book Livi assistant manager Davie Martindale as he threatened to lose control of what had been, up to that point, a fairly-contested game. Dykes was then cleaned out in an aerial challenge soon after without even a foul being awarded.
Those perceived injustices lit a fire under the Lions as they raised their game once again, Dykes seeing an effort deflected wide on 62 minutes after being teed up by Sibbald. Guthrie’s effort from the resulting corner also appeared to take a deflection but a goal kick was awarded. Sibbald then saw his free kick flicked on by Guthrie for Bartley two minutes later but Gillespie was again quick off his line to block, taking a knock in the process. Dykes then couldn’t quite get on the end of the resulting corner.
Motherwell made their final change on 66 minutes, Mark O’Hara replacing Polworth, as they prepared to defend a throw-in and the change perhaps caused too much disruption in their defence as the Lions took the lead when Brown’s long throw bounced all the way through to Taylor-Sinclair at the back post and he headed home off the underside of the bar. Gillespie had almost managed to keep that one out too but couldn’t get enough on the header to tip it over.
Allan Campbell picked up a booking for the visitors on 69 minutes after a foul on Guthrie before Gillespie once again came to ‘Well’s rescue two minutes later as McMillan got to the byline and cut the ball back for Pittman who saw his low effort turned away by the keeper’s legs. He then recovered to stop both Dykes and Sibbald turning in the rebound.
Livi were showing no signs of sitting on their lead and continued to pour forward, Dykes seeing an effort deflected wide of the near post on 78 minutes after being slipped in superbly by Pittman. before Guthrie fired over from the resulting corner. Pittman then released Robinson with a similar through ball three minutes later; he tried to go across goal with his effort but saw it roll a couple of feet wide.
Dykes will feel he should have done better on 84 minutes when, after Sibbald had released McMillan down the right, his low cut back found the big striker unmarked at the near post but, leaning back, he could only fire high over the bar from six yards. O’Hara then picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Bartley, although the Lions were furious that no advantage was played as Dykes ran clean through on goal, with Gary Holt joining his no.2 in the referee’s book.
Having rarely been near Livi’s goal in the match, the visitors almost stole a point in added time when the ball fell to Peter Hartley 25 yards out and his first-time effort bounced past Robby McCrorie only to crash back off the inside of the post. It would have been a travesty had that effort found the net but, in the end, the only travesty was that – having had 16 attempts to the visitors’ one and 14 corners to one – the Lions only had a one-goal victory to show for their efforts.
Full-time: Livingston 1-0 Motherwell
Livingston: McCrorie, McMillan, Taylor-Sinclair, Brown, Guthrie, Bartley, Sibbald, Pittman, Robinson, Lawless, Dykes
Subs not used: Maley, Lithgow, Crawford, Jacobs, Souda, Lawson, Lamie
Goals: Taylor-Sinclair (67)
Motherwell: Gillespie, Tait, Gallagher, Hartley, Carroll, Campbell, Polworth (O’Hara 67), Donnelly, Ilic (Manzinga 45), Long, Hylton (Mugabi 45)
Subs not used: Carson, Grimshaw, Seedorf, Maciver
Referee: John Beaton
Match Report: Andy Crawford